Saturday, September 30, 2017

Farmer's Table in Livingston

Well, birthday 61 was rolling around, and I new exactly what I wanted to do., the cooking school at Farmer's Table in Livingston, hosted by Chef Conner Wolf. I've been following my little buddy Connor Wolf for years.  I go way back with this kid, to the days with his Dad Tommy, on the soccer fields of Rankin County.  Conner has been cooking ever since he was tall enough to reach a skillet on the back eye of the stove.  I've been tempted to run over to his Momma Patty's house to get the last bite of his latest creations posted to FB, but I knew I'd be too late to even lick the plate!
Chef Conner Wolf

Lately I've been celebrating more than just the day of my birth, more like the week of my coming out party!  I went to the Farmer's Table web site and checked the menus for the week.  Turns out, my special day was lobster roll day.  Lobster in Mississippi????  Well, da boy is a chef, and he has been to one of them fancy cooking schools in Miami, and he's been sou cheffing at Walkers and Local 463 for several years, so he must know a thang or two, or three???!!!  The menu consisted of :  Fall Lettuce Salad, Old Bay Potato Chips and Smoked Comeback, Slow Butter Poached Lobster Rolls, and Almond Cookie with Lemon Ice Cream. Tickets were purchased and the calendar was set for 6:30 on Thursday.
Me and Chef Conner

Farmer's Table is located at the end of highway 463 out from Madison.  Several businesses have made a home there, and quite a few events are planned there throughout the year.  There was not a lot of car traffic, being this was a Thursday night.

As we entered the school, we were greeted by the smell of oil at 325 degrees, with thinly sliced pieces potato coming out pot!  Chef Conner was making us his version of potato chips, as an appetizer and also a side to the lobster rolls.  He had also whipped up a smoked comeback sauce for dipping. Two ladies joined our motley crew, time to get this thing started! This cooking school is gonna be a breeze!

Chef started us off with baking Almond cookies.  Being a cookie baker this was awesome, starting it off with dessert!  This recipe didn't call for any flour, using almond paste and powdered sugar and a few other ingredients to pull it together.  Chef Conner put us right to work, zesting a lemon, chopping almonds, and measuring out powdered sugar in a cup without measurement markings!  After a few pluses of the food processor, they were ready for the oven!
I got to pulse!

Chef Conner has the cleanest hands!

The salad wasn't your typical romaine or iceberg.  We had hand picked fall greens of a variety of plants I've never heard of.  We were put to work prepping the onion, peeling and slicing pears, chopping garlic, and crumbling up some bleu cheese.  I guess us beginners have to start somewhere, chop! chop!  The dressing was a balsamic sherry vinaigrette, held together by a touch of Dijon mustard!  It works! That salad dressing never separated!

Fall greens with pears and candied pecans

While we were seated, enjoying our professionally plated salad, Chef Conner was busy at the stove prepping for our main course, lobster rolls!  He had fresh lobster rolls from a local bakery, and our job was to toast the edges.  He had heated up four pounds of butter to poach the lobster.  Yes, I said four pounds!  While he was working with the butter, we were busy prepping the ingredients for the dressing.  Chef Conner loves his Dukes mayonnaise, and I had to give him a hard time about that since I'm married to a Blue Plate kinda gal.  The two other ladies grew up on Miracle Whip!  The lobster tails were poached to perfection and then sent to the freezer for a little cool down, while the Chef did his magic to the dressing.  I did notice he has a tendency to add a pinch of cayenne to the ingredients!

The lobster rolls were plated, with a side of his old bay potato chips made earlier.  The best part of the meal, was the conversations between the four of us "guest chefs" and our interactions with our host, Chef Conner Wolf.  The meal was finished off with a serving of lemon ice cream and almond cookies.  I was lucky enough to blow out two candles that came with my serving.  No birthday wish here, my wish had already been granted with this wonderful evening!

toasted bun

heaven on a plate

food is love!

birthday boy, lemon ice cream and almond cookies

Kodiak moment by Chef Conner

Me and the Spousal Unit!

Wish was granted

I highly recommend a visit to Farmer's Table in Livingston cooking school.  Be sure to go online to check their calendar of events and get your tickets.  You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Acura Roadside Assistance, part two

From part one, we had a "check engine light" episode, on our trip to Clearwater, Florida.  Luckily, we had booked a hotel room in Mobile, AL for the night that was directly across the interstate from the local Acura dealership.

Next morning, I called Enterprise, no pickup, since the rental is at the airport.  I ask if I can by chance pick up the vehicle early.  E guy says, "no sir, I'm short on vehicles."  I explain that its a truck, and what my circumstances were.  E guy said to come on!

In the process of completing the paperwork, I find that its a new Nissan Titan Quad cab pickup (online said Dodge quad 1500).  In the conversation, the E Guy says its gonna get interesting in a couple of hours.  Seems he only has 6 sedans on the lot, and 12 people coming to pick up reserved cars!  Only one of the customers was flying in, the other eleven were like me, walk up reservations!

In the airport parking lot, we swapped all our beach stuff and other stuff from the Acura MDX to the mighty big ass Titan Quad cab pickup.  We, (I), needed that truck to haul all our stuff and it was the only vehicle big enough for this Vaca man and his beaching gear!  Hertz had nothing!  Luckily, all the stuff from inside the car fit in the quad cab, and all the stuff from the basket hitch went into the truck bed.  Now, on to the Acura car dealership....

We get to the dealership, and wouldn't you know it, the lot is barricaded at all entrances.  You have got to be kidding me.......  Luckily, we had both sets of keys.  I took mine, walked to the service door, and found the drop box for early service.  The gate at the entrance to the dealership had a sign that stated that "the dealership is closed until July 5th, so that their employees could enjoy the July 4th holiday!"  It also included a telephone number that you could text a message, if you needed to contact the dealership during the holiday.  Wonderful!  The car won't even be looked at for four days!  We parked the car as close to the entrance gate as we could get, and left a note on the steerng wheel for the Dealership or the local Popo to see.   What else to do?????  Hopefully a responsible party would get to it before any criminal element......

With half the day gone, the second leg of our trip finally began.  We had booked a room in Gainesville for Sunday night months ago, since check in at the Clearwater Condo wasn't until Monday afternoon.  Three to four hours into our drive, the Acura dealership guy called to let us know that he had moved the car to the service lot of the dealership and they would look at it on Wednesday.

During our stay in Clearwater, we got daily phone calls from the Dealership.  Wednesday was spent trying to diagnose the problem, with no answer.  Thursday they finally hooked up to the computer systems in the car and confirmed that what we told them had indeed happened. (It was the same issue from September of last year, and happened outside Mobile!)  Instead of ordering a new computer module, they reinstalled the software, added some gas, then spent the rest of the day and Friday morning, putting some miles on it, in traffic similar to what we had experienced.

We decided to cut our vaca short and head back Friday afternoon, with an overnight stop in Tallahassee, FL.  The big ass mighty Titan quad cab truck was due back on Sunday anyway.  The Acura dealership confirmed that it would be ready for us to pick up on Saturday.  We made it to the dealership, picked up the MDX, dropped off the Titan (no refund for being 20 hours early) and hit the road for home, arriving without incident.

Yesterday, I called the Acura Roadside assistance number that the woman had transferred me to on Saturday night.  Three minutes of voice prompts and I finally get a feller on the line.  I stated that I wanted to file a claim for reimbursement for the car rental.  The plan says you are entitled to up to $300 per day for three days for reimbursement for car rentals, food, lodging, etc... but you must be at least 100 miles from home to qualify.  The Acura guy asked a bunch of questions, got all the particulars:  vehicle, VIN number, name, mileage, etc....  He then pointed out what the plan covered, and agreed that we did qualify.  He said he put all of my information in their system.  Cool.  Then.....

The Acura help guy tells me that I needed to call the original telephone number to file a claim.  I asked would they be able to see the information that he just put into their system????  He said no, different system.  I would have to go through all of this again!  You gotta be kidding me, 2017!!!  You just cannot make this stuff up!

I hang up with the Acura Guy, and I dial the other number.  Acura Gal answers.  Yep.  I gotta repeat myself all over again.  She asks what phone number was used to place the original road side assistance call.  I gave her the number, and she confirmed that the event had occurred.    She then tells me, "please hold, while I check with my supervisor to see if you have reached the right department for filing a claim."  What????  Really????  I'm glad I wasn't on the side of the road, that Saturday night hoping to get a yow truck!

The Acura Gal reconnected, and yes, I was with the right department.  I was instructed to MAIL all of my original receipts to an address in Massachusetts!  Can I not email it to you???  Nope, snail mail it is.  And of course, I don't have receipts for the food along the way since I paid cash, and I don't have hotel receipts since we used reward points!  Gonna be interesting to see what they do pay out of the "up to $300 per day for three days"......

I did find it interesting that none of the Acura Dealership paperwork mentioned much of anything that we described, including this being a "second occurrence".  Fingers crossed that this car doesn't get a third strike for a faulty computer module inside the transmission.  Otherwise, it will be another adventure fighting over a "lemon law" issue with those sales people that described this MDX as a luxury automobile with trouble free driving!

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Two days of our recent trip were spent in Orlando at Parc Soleil, a Hilton Grand Vacation Resort.  This was our rest and relax portion of our trip.

The resort has two pool areas, the central pool with the water slide and it's the center of all the activities.  The other pool it off to the side, is much smaller, and has one of those water powered lift chairs to get handicapped guests in and our of the pool.

When you walk up to the second pool, you instantly realize, it's the favorite for doing the alligator float and cocooning.

You must enter this pool like a boat leaving the harbor, make no ripple, leave no WAKE!  The water is only 4.5 feet at its deepest point.  It's helpful to have some type of flotation device so that you can participate in the alligator float.

The wait staff is at your becon call, as they circle this wet oasis every fifteen minutes to entice you into ordering the cold slushy drink of your choice.  Me being the old vaca pro, I brought my own frozen margaritas pool side!

With the pool being smaller, and everyone doing the same thing, you can't help but start up or join a conversation.  We share restaurant secrets like where not to go,  which one is the best ever, and tips like the Landry Select dining club,  where you get first priority seating, which is especially helpful.

Young people are welcome, but they must obey the rules of alligator floating and cocooning, or us old folks will make their visit a short one!

We met several new friends, like Rose & James, from Pennsylvania, our age, similar life styles and interests.  We are looking forward  to catching up with them on future stays at HGVC resorts.  We are meeting up with other vaca friends during our next Florida trip in August.

Eventually, you have been in the water so long that your hands and feet are totally wrinkled and it's time to dry out.  Once out of the pool and dried off, the July and August heat hits you and back in you go!

By now, you have guessed it, this is the life after your children have grown up and left the nest, and you don't handle the amusement parks like you did ten years ago.  Happy hunting for you favorite cocooning hole!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Restaurant Curse

Several months ago, one of my Facebook buddies, Chris Kennedy, posted a rant about he and his wife trying to have a romantic dinner one night, only for the occasion to be interrupted by the sound of a baby screaming at the top of its lungs!  To add fuel to the fire it has occurred over and over again.  Chris lives over in the Atlanta area, so the odds of occurrences are much greater for him.

I got a good laugh at Chris' rant, thinking that doesn't happen to me very often.  Yeah right!  All of a sudden, these screaming babies are everywhere!  I look at the spousal unit, and give her that look if mine, and I calmly say, "its the Chris restaurant curse"!  Eventually the kid is either picked up, or fed the right combination of food items, but rarely do these parents pick the kid up and take them outside to calm them down!

Its bad enough that these babies are a disruption, But now I am noticing everything!  There is always that guy at the table next door that is significantly louder than his companions.  And this guy, happens to be an expert at everything discussed during their 1.5 hour meal!

Then there was the waitress at Cracker Barrel last night.  The restaurant had some specials, for a limited time.  They called two of them "camp fire" meals, chicken or beef, with veggies, wrapped up in foil and slow roasted.  I ordered the chicken one.  She comes back from the kitchen, "we're all out".  Ok, I'll have the beef.  She comes back from the kitchen, "we're all out of that too."  She then asks "what else would you like to try?"  I looked at her and noticed something was missing.  I replied "why don't we start with a menu????"  She gives me that look, huh??? Then she realizes she doesn't have that either! Eventually I order something that they do have, but during our meal, I'm over hearing the same conversation I had, and its happening to other diners with different waiters!

Today at the Shed Barbecue, the cashier asked for my name for the ticket.  I told her "Bill Bill" for first and last name.  Waitstaff calls out "Bill!"  I answer "here!"  She asks "what's your last name?"  I reply, "my name's Bill Bill!"  Gal looks at me, then she looks at the ticket, and says "oh, yeah!  Cool!"  Finally I won a round!  Maybe this restaurant curse is broken!  (fingers crossed!)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Notes From Clearwater Beach

If you are planning a trip to Orlando and realize it's nowhere close to the beach, you may want to consider a side trip down I-4 toward Tampa, and visit Clearwater Beach.

You probably want to steer clear of holiday weekends, as the beaches were maxed out with visitors this July 4th.  The room rates were pretty steep as well.

The Wyndham Grand Clearwater was running $500 per night and parking another  $25
The Hyatt garage was $5 per hour with a $35 daily max.

Beach side, the going rate for chair and umbrella rental was $40 per day. The cabana rental was $75 per day Now you know why I bring my own!

Most of the beach front is open to the public.  The beaches are manned with real life guards, just like the old tv show "Babe Watch", but no Pamela Anderson!

Bikinis are everywhere!  There must be a shop that sells one size fits all nearby.  I spotted several of those thong thangs as well!  I was surprised to see that the guys with tattoos far outnumbered the gals with tattoos.

This time of year the water is warm as bath water.  The shells are real small, but you can occasionally find a couch shell under water.

The sand is a fine powder, and is compacted.  It took some effort to get my cup stake into the sand.  Once I got everything up and placed where I wanted it, i took my seat then began enjoying a few conversations with Rita.

The sunsets are amazing.  The beaches face west, so you get to see the sun disappear under the water horizon.

We are already making plans for a return trip, possibly in 2018, along with a stop in Orlando to see all the new stuff that is in the works there!

Happy beaching everybody!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Acura road side assistance

You never know when car trouble will strike you, but it usually, almost always happens "after hours"!

Back last September, coming back from Orlando, one of the computer boxes went bad.  We were close to the Acura dealership in Mobile, and we got there before the service department closed.  They gave us a loaner, which we kept for a week, then I made a return trip to pick up the car.  The dealership was wonderful in helping us in our time of need.

Fast forward to yesterday, a Saturday, 8 p.m. and we are approaching Mobile, heading back to Florida for another vaca.  Plans were to spend the night, then head to our destination in the morning.

Spousal Unit is driving, and suddenly the dashboard lights up just like it did in September.  Computer module inside the transmission has gone haywire, again!  No panic,  this has happened once before, but not late at night.

Plan is to call the 24 hour hotline for roadside assistance, find out what to do about repairs and a replacement vehicle so we can continue our planned trip.  I find the number in the glove box and make the call.

I ring 1-800 Acura, which of course, puts me in the cue, and we wait.  Several minutes pass, then finally, a customer service representative.  Now the check list:  name, rank, car vin number, car model,  year of manufacture, etc...

I explain that we are in route, and do not need a tow.  What do we do with the car tonight, tomorrow etc... and what do we do about a loaner or rental?  Gal says "I don't know, I'm new at this job, and my notes...."  I tell her that here is what I'm going to do:  our hotel happens to be across the highway from the dealership, here in Mobile.  We are going drop the car off, fill out the after hours paperwork and drop the keys in the drop box.  Now, what about a rental?"

The gal says to me, "we don't handle that at this telephone number, only roadside assistance, but I can transfer you to that number."  I ask, "is it a 24 hour service line?"  She of course does not know the answer, and cannot determine if it is yes or no from her manual, but she transfers me anyway.

The phone number rings, and I get the recording "our offices are currently closed.  Our next business day will be Wednesday, July 5th." Click. You just cannot make this crap up!

Ok, I know what to do with the car.  There is a Hertz rental place next door.  I put my smartass phone to work.  All the Hertz locations in Mobile are closed on weekends, and the one at the airport does not have any vehicles available that would meet our needs.  Am I surprised???

Next search, Enterprise!  Found a vehicle, at the airport, but it's pick up only, with no option to come get you.  I book it, a Dodge Ram 1500 quad cab, alright!  I can put my rack in the back and not have to leave it with the car for the dealer to find on Monday!

We arrive at the hotel, cut the car off, then recrank it.  Yes! We can still roll!  Off to the airport at noon for the pickup, then the next leg of this adventure begins!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Ride Down 30A

Yesterday, we had a hankering for a roadie trip to Sandestin for a lunch date at the Acme Oyster House.  We're in Panama City Beach for the week and haven't found a spot that meets our craving requirements,  Acme is only 45 minutes away, and the mental images of those chargrilled oysters just will not leave my head!

We arrived down here on Saturday and the traffic on 98 and all the side roads was bumper to bumper.  Yesterday's trip was a breeze, but once all the schools let out, it will be bumper to bumper again!

The food from Acme was wonderful!  Raw oysters, chargrilled oysters, and oyster poboys, with a few shrimp sprinkled here and there!  Our bellies were full, it was now time to head back to PCB.

Son#1 and his girly friend have not had the pleasure of a car ride down 30Aaaa, so a detour was in order.  In the old days, the only things to see were a bunch of scrub pines and a stop at the one destination on the loop, Seaside.  The roadway is still a two lane, but that is about the only thing that has stayed the same down this memory lane ride.

There is now a bike path that pretty much runs the length of 30A.  There are lots of eateries along the way, with green spaces dedicated as parking lots for all those bicycles that got to go somewhere!  The one destination of Seaside is now joined by multiple communities, and the only thing separating them are the road signs welcoming you to each community.

The view of all those scrub pines have been replaced with side roads filled with expensive beach houses and gated communities.  During our ride, there were only glimpses of the emerald green water, on the other side of all those homes.  The best part, people have built these same expensive houses on the other side of the road and no view of the gulf!

As we passed through Seaside, we could not help but notice how congested it was with foot traffic, bicycles, and golf carts.  We could barely see the food truck booths on the side of the road for all the people in front of them!

All these weekly residents of 30A were former visitors of Destin, Sandestin and PBC.  They left those destinations for the solitude, peace and quiet of 30A.  Sorry dudes! Those days are long gone!  You are still spending a fortune on your accommodations, plus the golf cart rental, and being elbow to elbow on your chosen spot in the sand!

Me, I'll stick with my regular locations, with beach cart and wagon in hand, and all the necessities to keep my beach queen happy.  "On the beach resorts" now take a back seat to the coastal parks that are practically void of wall to wall umbrellas and canopy tents.

Time for me to go claim our spot in the sand in PCB!